ISBN-13: 9781860495243
Publisher: Virago Press Ltd
Published: March 1999
472 pgs
Source: Personal Library

I have heard a lot of great reviews on Sarah Waters' books, but just haven't got around to reading any of them yet. So I told myself, enough is enough, and I shall wait no more in reading her books, thus this is where Tipping the Velvet comes along. Why I chose this book is simply because I don't think I have read a lot of reviews on this one, as compared to her other titles such as Fingersmith and The Little Stranger. I might be wrong, but anyway the decision has been made so I wasted no time in jumping into this story. And guess what, I loved this story! Aside from the Victorian England setting (which is one of my favourite era to read), the other thing that made this book so outstanding is Waters' writing style. Oh, how I love her prose!

Eighteen-year-old Nancy Astley's life is a simple yet a satisfactory one, in a sense that she is enjoying her life being an oyster girl and that their oyster restaurant in Whitstable, Kent, is doing well. However, her life changes once she attends a musical hall and is fascinated with a young cross-dressing performer named Kitty Butler. She is so intrigued by Kitty so much so to the extent that she watches her perform almost every evening, and hope that she could catch Kitty's attention.

Nancy does finally manage to catch Kitty's attention, and it is not long before she becomes Kitty's dresser, helping her to change costumes in between the performances. All this while, she has kept her desire on Kitty only in her thoughts, plus she is not sure if Kitty feels the same way towards her. When Kitty is being offered a chance to perform in London, Nancy decides she would leave everything behind and be Kitty's personal dresser as she follow her around. Nancy's life then took a new turn when she became Nan King as she joins Kitty on stage. It is also at this time that their relationship soars and at its height when they discover their love for each other.

Tipping the Velvet is not what I have expected in the beginning. I knew this is a coming-of-age story of a young girl and her journey of finding her self and her unique relationship with another girl. Other than these, I knew nothing about this book and for this, I felt it is a good thing because you just wouldn't know what to expect of this story, since there are so much anticipation and twist to it. The twist referred here is more of a change in Nan's life thereafter and does not associated with mystery. And the more I read, the more I felt for Nan and hope that she would find happiness in the end.

While Tipping the Velvet is a story about self-discovery, I have to say it is also a story about sexism, class difference, freedom and socialism. Though this book contains lesbian theme, please do not let that deter you from reading it as Waters' storytelling is superb and the passionate scenes are done tastefully.

As I mentioned before I like reading the Victorian era, what most fascinated me of this story is the characters and the settings as Waters has the capability to bring them all to life through her skilful writing. I learnt something more about oysters; how they are prepared from fishing right down to opening them (yes, there's a technique) and not to mention the colourful life of the performers onstage or offstage.

After reading Tipping the Velvet and falling in love with Waters' writing style, it is no surprise to me that she has become one of my favourite authors to read and I cannot wait to read the rest of her books. The problem is, I do not know which book I should read next (should the mood strikes since I am such a moody reader). What's your suggestion? I would love to hear your views!

(Click here to find out what other bookbloggers have said about this book.)
16 Responses
  1. Eva Says:

    This was my first Waters, and I loved it too! :D

    I'm reading her books in published order, which makes it much easier to decide which book to get next. lol

  2. I'm so glad you reviewed this one, Melody, as I've been considering whether to read this. I have a few other of Waters' books on my shelf to get through first (as I don't own Tipping the Velvet-yet). Thank you for your great review!

  3. Julia Says:

    The reviews really interestng and I'm glad to hear that you like the book too ;) I never heard of this author by the way :)

  4. Violet Says:

    yay, finally we get a review of this book :)

    I haven't read of her books too, I should also say 'enough is enough' now :)

    I might start with this one if I do. Nice covers all.

  5. Alice Says:

    Great review, Melody! I downloaded the Kindle version this book two days ago because I couldn't find it anywhere in the bookshops while in Singapore! Can you believe that? Thanks for introducing this book to me. :D

  6. Dot Says:

    Great review, I haven't read this one but have read Affinity and The Little Stranger which are both excellent.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I haven't read this one although I watched in on TV a few years ago and was very impressed. I recommend The Night Watch which was probably one of the best books I read last year.

  8. Sandy Nawrot Says:

    I've read Fingersmith, The Little Stranger and Night Watch, and am decidedly a HUGE fan of Waters. Her books do have lesbian themes, but is never preachy and is more underlying themes versus over-the-top. This book is next on my list!

  9. Care Says:

    I have yet to read any SW yet YET! I have Fingersmith in the house but want this one, too.

  10. The Bookworm Says:

    this sounds very good, I need to read this author. great review! its always a good thing to learn random facts while reading, like the whole oyster thing :)

  11. Jenny Says:

    Have you seen the miniseries of this? I watched it shortly after reading the book, and it's very faithful to the book.

    I recommend Night Watch next. It's good, and it's a change of pace and setting from Tipping the Velvet. Definitely a good one to read to see Sarah Waters doing something different.

  12. Melody Says:

    Eva - I think that's a great idea! :D

    Wendy - I think I've all her books except The Night Watch, so will have to add that onto my wishlist. I hope you'll enjoy this book when you get to it. :)

    Julia - I love her writing, so I hope you'll explore her books if you get the chance. :)

    Violet - Ooh, that's great! Can't wait to hear what you'll think of this! :)

    Alice - I think I bought this in Kinokuniya. Anyway I'm glad you'd downloaded the Kindle version! Hope you enjoy! :)

    Dot - Yes, I've heard a lot of great reviews on The Little Stranger so I can't wait to read that too!

    Chasingbawa - I'm not sure if the film adaptations are released in DVD so I'll have to check them out.

    Sandy - You've read a lot of her books! I can't wait to hear what you'll think of this!

    Care - LOL. Go read it, now! :P

    Naida - I agree it's always a good thing to learn random facts while we're reading! It's like killing two birds with one stone, isn't it? LOL.

  13. Melody Says:

    Jenny - We must have posted here at the same time, LOL.

    No, I have yet to watch the miniseries, so I'll have to check if they're released in DVDs. It seems like The Night Watch is a popular choice so I might read that when the mood strikes!

    Thank you all for the recommendations! :)

  14. Ana S. Says:

    I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Melody!

    My favourite is Fingersmith, so I'd say that, but maybe you want to save the best for last? :P

  15. Melody Says:

    Nymeth - Yes, I did! :)

    Honestly, I still can't decide between Fingersmith or The Night Watch, as it seems like these two are the most favourites among all. Well, we shall see... ;)

  16. valentina Says:

    This is my favourite sarah waters so far, I'm glad you enjoyed. I used to think it wasn't for everyone but maybe I should change my mind and recommend it more!

    I didn't enjoy The Night watch as much as Fingersmith, so I'd recommend the latter definitely :)

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